Thursday, September 29, 2011

One more day of summer

It is supposed to get really cold on Saturday night. This is good for the garden, but bad for hot-loving farmers like myself. Luckily, I love my garden and am glad that the cold should do in the bugs that are munching on my brand new Red Russian Kale seedlings and my chard. All else seems to be going well. Seedlings of all types are pretty well established, and it's supposed to warm back up to lows on the 50s after our little cold snap. Perfect fall plant weather!

One more big plant project is coming up before winter's onslaught; high tunnels for some of the seedlings. I want to see if 1. I can have them without their collapsing at the first snow fall, and 2. They help the plants grow more vigorously in cold weather. I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fall garden time

It has been ages, blog! Late summer tends to get me down a bit. The corn didn't quite work out, the tomatoes died of wilt, squash bugs abounded and still abound, and the second bee hive fled the premises. It is too depressing to write about in the moment and the bad stuff manages to obscure the good.

And there is a lot of good.We put up beets for the first time, not all the tomatoes died (we have put up a bunch of tomato sauce and the tomatoes keep coming!), the green beans did well, the crowders are insane, and the edamame rule.

All that being said, fall is here! And I feel like I've earned some cred as a southern gardener because I am nine kinds of excited! Beans and peas are growing well, as is a TON of dill (I helped a few flowers self seed), and cilantro is up! I finally cleaned out the front yard garden and planted mustard, rape, Wong bok, arugala, lentils (we will see how that goes...) and fava beans. YAY!!!!!

There is still so much more to be done...more weeding out back, and taking up the melon/cuke patch and some of the beans so that more fall plantings can go in.

I'll wrap it up with a shout out of thanks to a storm named Lee who got me the rain I have been dreaming of for months. Thanks Lee! Now let's go fall garden!

Friday, July 8, 2011

The diseases of summer

It's been hot and it has been humid! It was dry for several weeks, and then the weather pattern changed and Durham has been muggy and assaulted by thunder storm after thunder storm. To be honest, I worry less about my plants when it rains than when it is dry, but I suspect that this summer may reverse my thinking on that subject. The tomatoes have started to produce beautifully, but I'm about to lose a substantial portion of the plants to wilt. Some plants were looking a bit wilt ridden when it was dry. Then the muggy came, and things went from and to dead pretty quickly. I blame myself as I made some bad cultivar selections this year; I started tomato seedlings for my mother in law this spring. She lives a couple of hours east of us and they have different wilt than we have here. I planted the seedlings she didn't have room for, and our type of wilt took em right out. I also planted black krims that I got at a seed exchange. I have no idea if they are resistant to anything. The rest of my plants are volunteers from last year. This will teach me to buy appropriate varieties and seed save rather than messing with other stuff. Tough lesson though.
Word is out from Debbie Roos at the Chatham County cooperative extension that downy mildew has struck some NC counties. In a high panic, I have started spraying my curcubits with Serenade. Durham was last hit with this shite disease in 2009 and I lost everything practically overnight. I am on it this time. I hope. I am pulling in beautiful cukes for the first time ever (thank you bees!) and I will be damned if I lose the whole crop.
In happier news, the bean and corn look mostly happy as do the amazing, mobile, reappearing peanuts. I am very excited for the blue coco beans. They are beautiful plants, and the baby beans are going to be a lovely, mottled blue and green! The crowder peas out front are growing like gangbusters, though the rest of the beans are smaller and more bug eaten than I would like. I suspect the lack of water for several weeks may be the culprit (no irrigation out front), but it's possible that the soil is lacking nutrients. I suspect that it is time for a soil test. I HATE soil testing. I have to dig so many holes!
Potato harvest is due to take place tomorrow. I think we lost some plants to the blight, so I will post about the size of the harvest once I have that information.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Bugs bugs bugs. And disease.

Well, summer is off to a swimming start. The blackberries are delicious. The tomatoes are coming in (!) and I saw a bee pollinating no fewer than 5 cucumber flowers. Gold star to that bee!!!! On the negative side, one of my squash plants was infested with squash bugs. I grabbed them all with my fingers and put them in a pail of soapy water. Yum. I went back the next day to get the remaining ones and just squished them with my fingers. Double yum. Some of the tomatoes have some kind of wilt. I'm being a bad gardner because I haven been able to bring myself to uproot them. So I will probably lose the entire harvest. So far, I do not have any vine borers. Everyone else I know who gardens downtown has them, so I think it's only a matter of time. I check every day, so hopefully I will catch them before my plants die. One of my poor pawpaw trees appears to have been scalded by the sun. I built it a shelter using my floating row cover, so hopefully it will not die.

In other news, the city is almost certainly going to sell us the triangle behind the house! Darko Urban Farm will be expanding!!!!!! I think we have large scale compost and lots of fruit trees and bushes back there. I don't think we are going to fence it in. If it all goes well, there will be a beautiful, available food forest back there in five years or so!

On the sad side, it is not raining almost at all. It's getting really bad. Apparently the corn crop out east has already been declared a lost cause. With our catchement system, we've managed without using much water from the city at all, but I'm not sure how much longer we can avoid watering.

All in all, things are good so far. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. And freaking out that other people have squash out the ying yang while mine just flowered for the first time this morning. But it's all good.

And sometime soon, a little house that matches the people house will have feathered, egg laying residents... The house is cute cute cute! Yellow with white trim just like my house and with a blue front door just like my house! And I think we are going to stencil "Darko Urban Farm" on one side, not like my house, but awesome.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Well, mark me down as a true believer. Meaning, I guess, that I no longer just think permaculture sounds good on paper. It IS good in the garden. I was visiting the garden briefly a couple of days ago after work. It looks jungle-y in a way that makes me forget how tidy and kind of barren it looked a few months ago. Now it is a mess of food and flowers and bugs. And I love it!!! I was taking a peek at the snap peas, which are kind of on their last legs; it is too hot for them and it is time for them to move over and make way for the beginnings of green bean season. All of the sudden, a VERY scary-looking bug was among the snap peas. It was beautiful, and it looked like the kind of bug that wouldn't think twice before taking you out. It was so clearly a death machine that I was afraid of, even though it was relatively small. I have never, ever EVER seen this type of bug before. It looked exotic. It looked like it would eat lots of pests!!! It looked like I had made this amazing, pest eating bug a home in my veggie /flower jungle!!!! I will take a look in my bug ID book, and if I identify this bug, I will share it here.

Now, if only it would rain. I've somehow managed to already run a 1700 gallon cistern dry....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Everything is better without a pressure regulator!

I am still coughing and sound like a seal, but I was out in the garden this afternoon with my sister and Mike (thank you guys so much!). I mostly stood around blankly while Alexis and Mike installed the drip irrigation system for the apple trees, a couple of blueberries, the hazelnut and the entire annual vegetable garden. I've been under the weather with what I call the epizootie, Will calls a summer flu followed by bronchitis, and my friend Sarah randomly characterized as a stomach bug. So Alexis and Mike saved the garden from a summer of hot dryness with my occasional input.

And they saved it with style! Water guns and weird shoes ensured that they had a blast and I had something to stare at when I felt like I was melting.

Once we got it all hooked up, the misters were kind of weak (my garden is really big, so it gets hard to keep the pressure up once you put in a few hundred feet of tubing). So....I took off the pressure regulator and everything got better! I am so excited to start using the misters combined with the awesome 1700 gallon cistern! Thanks again to the garden heroes of the long weekend, Alexis and Mike!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Spring. Like the Energizer bunny.

This spring just keeps going and going. It is cool and rainy for yet another week. While I adore hot, my greens and peas are loving the weather and are showing their love with a bumper crop of tasty food. I had no idea lettuce could get so big!

We had some hail last weekend, but it didn't do much damage. The flat, orange bugs have showed up and are infesting bolted greens and radishes. I don't know what they are and will try to remember to look it up in my bug book. We are reinvested with voles. This has made adopting Vole Cat Jr. Look pretty good.

All of the seeds were finally planted this past weekend. Now it is time to wait for them to sprout. And by wait, I mean weed, finish installing the irrigation system, build the cedar trellises for the cukes and melons, put a bird net over the peach tree, and weed some more. A farmer's work is never done! And thank goodness for that!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Lost post

I wrote a long post last week and it disappeared into the TTA's ether. It makes me nervous to blog on the bus, but I'm getting back on the proverbial bicycle and giving it another try.

This has been a big week for the garden. The asparagus is coming up like crazy; we are harvesting every other day now! Yum yum yum.

The greens are growing rapidly as it warms up, and the radishes are ready. We've been eating delicious salads at every meal.

The drip irrigation system is partially in place. I ran out of 1/4 inch drip tubing, so the project is on a temporary hold. It doesn't really matter yet, as it keeps raining. Speaking of rain, it has been nine kinds of crazy out here. There were over 100 tornados on Saturday in North Carolina. Durham barely got rain, but a few miles away, there was serious destruction and loss of life.

I'm glad for a lot of reasons that the weather stayed relatively sane by us, not least of which is that Will and I picked up the bees on Saturday. I already adore being a bee keeper. Bees are awesome!!! I really really hope they survive. I had words with the bees upon pickup about their duties regarding the cucumbers. Hopefully, this will prompt them to pollinate them! I already want a second hive.

One final note: I went on CFSA's farm tour for the third time this year. I wondered, "will it still be cool? I've already gone twice....". Oh MAN was it cool. I absolutely loved it!! I am so glad that CFSA and the farmers do this every year. It's this amazing chance to see where our food comes from, to get inspired about my own farm, to see baby animals, and to eat amazing food. Thank you CFSA and participating farmers! I'll be attending again next year!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sleet, kiwis and asparagus

There is so much going on in the spring! Seedlings are getting bigger. I thinned arugala and endive yesterday and they made a tasty garnish for the yummy soba noodle salad I made with . . . FRESH ASPARAGUS!! Yum yum yum yum yum. This is year number three post crown planting, so we get to harvest until we're sick of it!

Will and I started construction of an arbor for the kiwi vines. It is awesome. I will post a picture when it is done. Then, we got the kiwis, the second pawpaw, the second raspberry and the goumi in the ground. And none too soon, as it proceeded to sleet on Sunday night and give us one more hard frost last night. I'm afraid to go look at the apple trees, a couple of which were in full flower. I guess it doesn't much matter; they're still babies, so I wasn't going to let them bear fruit this year anyway.

The indoor starts are doing okay. I've upped my game, by adding The Mister to my seed starting regimen. The Mister is something I saw at petsmart the other day. It is a watering device for reptiles, but it struck me that if it was gentle enough for a lizard, it would probably serve nicely for seedlings. And boy is it awesome. Pump up the air pressure, press a button and every seedling is well watered in under two minutes. It used to take me 15 minutes, and my hand would hurt from spritzing a million times.

On tap for tomorrow evening will be a second round of seed starting. I need to start a bunch of the seeds I got from Bountiful Gardens. I am especially excited for the approximately 90000000000 artichoke seeds I ended up with. I am hoping I know some peeps that will take some off my hands. I should probably start a seed starting business now that I have so many seeds and The Mister.

Location:S Mangum St,Durham,United States

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Planting planting planting

I'm slowly reclaiming the garden from the winter weeds. Each weekend, there are more mulched paths, more beds, and more sprouts! The seed starting cabinet has a jam packed level full of seedling flats and I'm about to start more. Seeds arrived this weekend from Bountiful Gardens! We've also been putting in useful plants all around; one pawpaw is in the NE corner of our yard, nearby is a choke berry bush. The hardy kiwis aren't planted yet, but they will go in the old greenhouse beds and the pergola will sit over the path. The elderberries went in the garden itself, and we got one of the raspberries in on the western side of the weedy hillside. We have another pawpaw, a persimmon, and a goumi berry still to plant... And I have to set up the drip irrigation system asap, as it is going to be in the mid 80s today. I have to remember to water the mushrooms today too, lest they dry out and die. Busy busy busy.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Conquering the weedy hillside

This has been an awesome week in farming! On Saturday, I had help planting lettuce, peas, beets, carrots and radishes from my sister, Darko Urban Farm's new volunteer, and my friend Danny who walked by and contributed 30 minutes of mulch moving. In addition, two students from Duke's Center for Documentary Studies came to the farm and interviewed me and Will. They were learning to make a brief slideshow with audio. We had a lot of fun and hope to get to see their finished product.

On Saturday, we also mulched the berm. It looks good, but needs more understory plantings to obviate the need for mulching in the future. Thankfully. . . There are tons of plants on their way to us from Useful Plants! I am excited to put into practice some of the amazing things I learned in my Edible Landscaping class as we add hardy kiwis, pawpaws, cherries, elderberries, persimmons and more to our landscape.

Then, on Sunday, Will and I implemented the best idea I have ever had. No kidding. Best idea ever. Ready? We got a bunch of pine trees from a guy who was cutting them down in his yard. We borrowed an angle grinder from Amber's dad (thank you!), and cut rebar to 3 foot lengths, pounded it into the ground so that about a foot was sticking up, built up the pine logs against the rebar and backfilled with mulch!!! VoilĂ  terrace! There are three levels. I ordered King Strephoria mushroom spawn from the really helpful folks at Mountain Mushroom in South Carolina (thanks, Tradd!). These mushrooms are edible and they have strong roots (or whatever you call them with mushrooms) that will help control erosion. They will decompose the wood chips, hopefully leaving us with great soil in which to plant...more food!!!!!

Also (I said it was a big week), I started seeds in the awesome planting cabinet Alexis made for me, and cut up potatoes to be planted later this week. Let the growing.....BEGIN!!!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cold comes back

It was about 70 yesterday. Tonight, it will be below freezing by several degrees. I am planning to come home early from work to make sure I can get the row cover on the hazelnut, which is already leafing out. I think all the rest of the trees will be okay as they all still seem dormant.

Nothing much else to report today.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The big time

Ladies and gentlemen (all three of you who read this);
It is possible that the Darko Urban Farm will hit the big time. I am so excited that I can't even use exclamation points. They would be an understatement.

The upshot followed by the backstory: Darko Urban Farm may appear in the next edition of Urban Farm Magazine. I have goosebumps.

I have been busting my flabby garden muscles this weekend. Friday at the DUF (best acronym ever), Saturday at Leigh Farm with my edible landscaping class, and today at my friend Nick's house with Crop mob. A reporter from Urban Farm was also at the crop mob and my friend Danny pointed the reporter in my direction. She says she will call me for an interview tomorrow.

My sister gets all the kudos. She was the brains and about 85% of the brawn behind the DUF CSA. Alexis, you dreamed big and helped make my crazy farmer dream come true. Happy birthday. I am so glad you are my sister.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The best day

I love my little farm. It makes everything okay. I had a tough week at work and so was able to take Friday off. Spring danced in on beams of sunlight and I worked outside in a t shirt. I pulled more weeds. I squealed to see tulips--a birthday gift from last year-- coming up around one of my apple trees. I saw the comfrey sending up green leaves, bulbs galore. Onions and garlic sprouting. I'm sure it's a pipe dream, but i am imagining that there wont be much wire grass this year. It's good to dream big in the spring. If only it would rain.

In addition to weeding, I picked up greensand and rock phosphate from Stone Brothers. I mixed the amendments in with the vermicompost from the bottom layer of Can O Worms, dug holes beside each tree to make sure they have access to phosphorus and fed all of the fruiting and flowering trees. Will tossed Biotone in each hole to ensure that the would be some mushroom to help the tree roots find the yummy stuff.

Then, I stood on the fence and looked down the row of apple trees. Every year in the garden moves me to joy. Those apples have grown a lot! They came to me in a tube; just a stack of sticks. Now, their trunks look so strong, their little branches come out of the trunks at strong, fruit bearing angles, and no branches point inward toward the trunk. My little orchard is growing strong! I wish I could be a farmer every day. I love being out there with my plants so much.

Tomorrow I will ask the Rock Shop to deliver some mulch. And I will get the potato starts ready. It's also spring veggie planting time already! I will plant the front yard with dill and cilantro and lettuce. There are already lots of cabbage family plants out there from the winter garden. And maybe peas.

My big projects will be kiwis and passion flower. I would like to build them a trellis out back. I have passion flower seeds; I will try to remember to scratch them up soon. So much to do!!!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weeding. Already.

I spent a large part of the weekend outside and it was awesome. I watched the apple tree pruning video made by the nursery Useful Plants and headed to the orchard, pruning equipment in hand. I decided to start with the hazelnut, after looking at and feeling daunted by my peach tree (how did it get so big in a year?). I think the pruning went well. I determined that I had not killed the hazelnut, it just had one dead branch. And I discovered that it already has beautiful white buds! Feeling good, I pruned the peach and the apples as well. I gave the bunnies the apple twigs. The cleaned the bark off in about five minutes.

Then I decided to plant my winnings from the bulb blitz before it got any later in the year and some wild flow seeds that, if the live, should make tasty food for my bees. Preparing a bed for bulbs and one for seeds leads us to everyone's favorite activity....WEEDING!! All I have to say is, if that damn wire grass doesn't give up the ghost soon, I may give up on farming (hah! That's funny!). Hopefully the berm and the weedy hillside will soon have a profusion of wild flowers.

In other news, I have decided what to do with the weedy hillside. I am going to forage for logs, hold them along the hillside with rebar, and the fill up the terraced sections with organic matter and mycelium. In a year or two, I will have nice dirt and slightly flatter land. I will be able to plant trees and such that will hold the land in place by the time the logs rot away. I think it is the best plan in the world.

Today will be 72 degrees. Spring most decidedly started this weekend. It will be in the 50s and 60s for the next 10 days. I saw 2 daffodils flowering last week as well as forsythia starting to bloom. Phew! I've made it through another winter!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


One more thing I forgot to mention. Bee adoption day is April 16!!!!! They are ordered and will be ready for pickup right after tax day! I ordered them for $80 from Busy Bee in Chapel Hill. I am so excited for them to arrive! I learned about a bush I need to plant for them ASAP but I already forgot what it is called. Good thing I wrote it down in my class notes!


It's over. It's really, really over. Even though it's still cold out, it's warm sometimes, too. And ......... THE ONIONS ARE GROWING!!!!! I was outside for a bit on Sunday. It was in the 60s and sunny. I cut back some of the herbs and the asparagus. And I checked on the onion bed. There are sprouts!!! The onions know it is spring!!!! Thank goodness; I have had more than enough winter.

In other news, my Durham Tech class is just about perfect. Today, we learned some about good plants for attracting insects and birds. I was thrilled to learn that I have already planted many of them; all of my herbs, chaste tree, sunflowers (I can't wait to plant the ones I got at that rest stop in Virginia). It sounds like I need plant some stuff in the carrot family, more parsley, and sun chokes. Also a beauty berry bush.

It's time to go back to wondering if it is inappropriate to wear rubber slippers when interviewing potential summer clerks. It's going to be 65 tomorrow (yay!!!) and I am interviewing from 10 to 2:10. Grrrr. Oh well. Hopefully it will be 65 again soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Maybe I am the last person in the gardening world to learn about this, but if not, I pass on my new knowledge to you with joy. I received the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalogue in the mail today. Did I order it? Maybe, but I don't think so. I don't know how they found me, but I sure am glad they did. It is, by leaps and bounds, the most comprehensive and beautiful seed catalogue I have ever seen in my life. If you are into collages or have kids, order the catalogue. It is free and great art projects are waiting to be made from it's gorgeous pages. And maybe you'll be tempted to order the jelly melon or yellow wonder wild strawberries. I know I am. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Spring! Spring! Spring!

Probably a false alarm, but everything seem to point to spring today. I started a class at Durham Technical Community College last night called Landscapes You Can Eat. It is taught by Sarah and Keith from Bountiful Backyards and promises to be a great learning experience for me. Then I got home and my seeds had arrived!!! And my spring issue of Urban Farm arrived as well. I went to bed and it stayed light out until 7pm in my dream. I woke up and it is 48 degrees outside with a predicted high in the upper 50s. I did not wear the puffy coat. I know it won't last and that winter will come back soon....but I think I see the light at the end of the tunnel and I think I just might hear my garden waking up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ice and snow mean it is time to order seeds!

It snowed and iced last night, so that means it is time to order seeds! I am slowly getting my act together; I took stock of the seeds I still have from the last two seasons, the seeds I saved last year, and the seeds I was thrilled to get at the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's Sustainable Agriculture Conference . Next year, the conference will be in Raleigh and I will be bringing seeds to share!

I have a lot of seeds; nevertheless, it might be impossible not to buy new seeds. Everything sounds amazing- every new seed is a chance for a miracle. Kind of like Seminole pumpkins. If I don't see another Seminole pumpkin miracle until July, that will be fine with me. We gave I don't know how many away and we are still eating them! So, despite the surfeit of seeds, I did in fact just place a $90 order with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Fully half of that cost went toward perennial onions, a new seed potato, and soft neck garlic; things that I will hopefully not have to buy again. And I didn't have to buy the potatoes, it just seemed like the right thing to give the amazing Carola some company. I am sure that I have mentioned this before, but I say it again. Potatoes are the best thing you can plant. Ever. I strongly recommend the Carola. SASE sells it. It is prolific, disease resistant, and has been pest free for two years here. Okay. Off my potato soap box.

The 2011 highlights are..... Baby corn! Lots of beans! And of course a reappearance of the never ending Seminole pumpkin. If you are hungry in September, please stop by and pick up three or four or ten of these prolific bastards. And (drumroll.......) BEES! Yes, we will be adding bees to the hive in March. I am very pleased and excited. Chickens may make their appearance in 2012.